Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disorder.  It is a chronic inflammatory collagen disease. The disease affects the connective tissue, the skin and joints.

  1. Pain in the joints of the hands, arms, shoulders, feet, legs, hips or jaws which may move from joint to joint and may be accompanied by swelling, redness and heat

  2. A red rash across the upper cheeks and over the bridge of the nose

  3. An unusual and excessive reaction to sunlight

  4. A red scaly rash on the face, scalp, ears, arms or chest.

  5. Small, usually painless sores found on the moist lining of the nose or mouth.

  6. Chest pain that worsens when breathing or lying down.

  7. Weight gain and swelling of the feet and legs which is caused by decrease in kidney function

  8. Seizures or severe mental illness

  9. A decease in the number of red or white blood cells or platelets.

  10. Presence of certain factors in the blood, specifically the LE cell, anti-native DNA auto antibodies, anti-Sin auto antibodies or a positive test for syphilis. (A falsely positive syphilis test indicates an abnormality in the immune response.  There is no relationship between lupus and venereal diseases.)

  11. Presence of antinuclear antibodies (ANA) in the blood

Treatment and Symptom management:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen sodium (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) may be used to treat a variety of signs and symptoms associated with lupus. NSAIDs are available over-the-counter, or stronger versions can be prescribed by your doctor. Check with your doctor before taking over-the-counter NSAIDs because some have been associated with serious side effects in people with lupus. Side effects of NSAIDs include stomach bleeding and an increased risk of heart problems.
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  • Antimalarial drugs. Although there’s no known relationship between lupus and malaria, these medications have proved useful in treating signs and symptoms of lupus. Antimalarials may also prevent flares of the disease. Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is the most commonly prescribed antimalarial. Side effects of antimalarial drugs include vision problems and muscle weakness.
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  • Corticosteroids. These drugs counter the inflammation of lupus, but can have serious long-term side effects, including weight gain, easy bruising, thinning bones (osteoporosis), high blood pressure, diabetes and increased risk of infection. The risk of side effects increases with higher doses and longer term therapy. To help reduce these risks, your doctor will try to find the lowest dose that controls your symptoms and prescribe corticosteroids for the shortest possible time. Taking the drug every other day can also help reduce side effects. Corticosteroids are sometimes combined with another medication to help reduce the dose, and therefore the toxicity, of both drugs. Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements while using corticosteroids can reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Rogers, L, I. 2006.  Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Retrieved August 26, 2009 from http://www.bio.davidson.edu/Courses/Immunology/Students/spring2006/Rogers/lupus.html

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